What are the differences between phone-interview and in-person-interview questions?

Leora Baumgarten —  October 15, 2012 — 3 Comments

phone interview questionThe other day my mom sent me an email that didn’t include a family photo. Instead she asked this question:

What is the difference between phone interview (also called “phone screening”) questions and interview questions?

Here is the email I sent to her:

“Hi Mom:

It’s so cool that you asked! Here is how I think about it. The goal of the phone interview is to identify a few people who you would like to invite for a face-to-face interview. The goal of the face-to-face interview is to identify one or two candidates you’d like to hire. The different goals should drive the kinds of questions you ask in each setting.

About 10% of the total candidate pool (all the people who apply) will meet your minimum qualifications. Use the phone interview to identify the best available talent from that 10%. Don’t expect to learn everything about every candidate, but, find out enough information to decide whether or not to invite them for a face-to-face interview.”

This is a question we hear often at NewHire and here is how to handle phone and in-person interviewing process:

  • Start by emailing an invitation to schedule a phone appointment. You might not realize it but this is already part of the interview. Your goal is to confirm that the candidate can follow up professionally. It may sound silly, but setting and keeping appointments is a work skill for lots of job titles.
  • Limit your phone conversation to 30 minutes. I like to start by asking about the most recent position and the duties and responsibilities. Find out why they are looking for a new job. Confirm that they can speak appropriately and professionally. Listen for negative language about past employers, duties, or coworkers. Listen for language that suggests the candidate felt a sense of commitment and belonging in their last job. Using words like “us” and “we” instead of “they” is one way a candidate might express this sense of belonging and ownership.  End the phone interview with clear information about follow-up and decision making schedule.
  • Use face-to-face interviews to decide whether or not the candidate should be hired. Confirm that they have the right set of soft skills, the right experience and the right work behaviors and attitudes to be successful in the job. Learn about their work history (ask about every job they’ve had), education, hobbies, and volunteer work. Decide if they will be an asset to the organization. Ask tough technical questions. Don’t be afraid of silence in the interview; give the candidate time to answer.
  • Expect to spend at least an hour with the candidate. Use the opportunity to gather a variety of information to make a smart hiring choice for your organization. Find out if you like the person and would enjoy having them as a team member.

Most importantly, be patient. Hiring takes time and effort. Look for the right person. Happy interviewing!

 

Leora Baumgarten

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Leora is Vice President of NewHire and a pro when it comes to hiring & recruiting for SMBs. When not at the office, you can find her swimming in Lake Michigan or spending time with her family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Connect with her on Google+.

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